C-5. College Operations during Periods of Inclement or Dangerous Weather Conditions or Other Weather-Related Emergencies

C-5. College Operations during Periods of Inclement or Dangerous Weather Conditions or Other Weather-Related Emergencies


These guidelines reaffirm the college's commitment to the safety of faculty, staff, and students and its recognition that many must travel a significant distance to meet teaching and learning commitments on campus.

The college’s primary function is to provide a full semester of high-quality instruction during the academic year. These guidelines describe how the college will notify faculty, staff, and students if inclement or dangerous weather occurs or develops prior to and/or during the normal business day.

The determination of such conditions will be made by the chancellor or his/her designee in consultation with Police Services and Maintenance and Operations and will be based on definitions and announcements from the Department of Transportation, state and local police agencies, and other public officials using data provided by local and national weather services. While the conditions in specific locales may vary, such local conditions may not apply uniformly to the entire region. The college will endeavor to meet its dual responsibility of conducting classes and managing the safety of its students, staff, and faculty during hazardous weather conditions in the region.

General Guidelines

When the chancellor makes the decision to close Penn State Harrisburg or delay the start of classes, the regional media will be notified at least two hours prior to the standard 8:00 a.m. reporting time for staff and before the start of the earliest scheduled classes. The announcement will apply to all classes for the period affected, that is, morning, afternoon, or evening according to the specific scripts shown below.

The college will make its announcement in the following ways:

  1. The college's Web page will carry a message about the status of classes.
  2. An announcement will be placed on the college's telephone system. All employees can access the system by calling 948-6495 and following the same directions they normally use to access messages.
  3. Messages will be placed on the 948-6000 number. If the technical arrangements can be made, this number will be programmed to allow simultaneous and multiple access for external callers.
  4. Messages will be sent via PSUAlert, the University emergency messaging system. Faculty, staff, and students will receive alerts at their Penn State-issued email address. Enrollees in the system may also opt to receive alerts by text message, at other email addresses, and by phone/voicemail. 

Principles Governing Faculty Practices

Because faculty members may make personal decisions to cancel classes during inclement weather, each instructor must discuss any weather-related arrangements in advance with students preferably at the beginning of the semester. This discussion should include information about the rescheduling of cancelled classes and/or alternative means of ensuring that students receive a full semester of instruction despite weather-related cancellations.

If a faculty member cancels a class, he/she must notify students through telephone trees, e-mail lists, instant messaging, or any other appropriate means. These arrangements, which must be approved in writing by the school director, should appear in the course syllabus.

When canceling classes because of weather, faculty must also notify the school's staff assistants, who will inform the school director. Such information is essential should students call the campus. Faculty should not ask the staff assistants to telephone students.

The best notification strategy is for faculty to access the college's voice mail system and leave a message at their office number. Students should be instructed to call the faculty member's office phone, which can be programmed with a message for students. Programming instructions are available from the staff assistants in each school.

To assist students who travel a significant distance for classes, any such cancellation notices should be programmed, if possible, no later than two hours prior to the beginning of the class period.

Faculty using Canvas or personal Web pages to communicate regularly with students should also consider including a statement about weather related cancellations or delays in all such communications.

Principles Governing Student Practices

If students notify the school offices that they are unable to travel to class because of weather conditions, faculty members should help students make up missed work.

Principles Governing Staff Practices

With the exception of essential employees, who have been informed of their status by letter, all other staff should follow the same instructions that apply to students. Staff should know the specific meanings of the scripts shown below and follow the instructions carefully. If a staff member believes that he/she is in any danger, each employee should exercise his/her own good judgment about reporting to work. When such liberal leave is in effect, accumulated leave (personal or vacation) is used to account for the absence. Each staff member should understand the implications of personal decisions and follow the directions provided in Human Resources Guideline 10, "Handling 'Weather Day' Absences or Official University Closedowns Due to Weather Conditions."

Interpreting the Various Scripts Used by Media Outlets

Penn State Harrisburg will do everything it can to deliver clear and concise messages to the media. The number of statements noted in previous weather policies has been reduced to a minimum: the campus is open, is closed, or will open/close at a specific time. All faculty, staff, and students are expected to familiarize themselves with the specific phrases and their meanings. The common phrases are indicated below.

  1. Campus will open at (time will be indicated); earlier classes are cancelled. — This statement applies to all but essential employees. Classes scheduled to begin prior to the time indicated should be rescheduled at another time by the faculty member. All classes starting after the time indicated will be held. Staff should report at the time indicated.
  2. Campus will close at (time will be indicated)— All operations after the closing time will be terminated. All but essential employees will be authorized to leave at the time indicated.
  3. Campus is closed. Only essential staff should report.
  4. Classes are cancelled (time will be indicated, if applicable). The college is open (time will be indicated or reference to normal operating hours will be inserted). – Classes are cancelled but college offices are open.

Please note that some media outlets release only minimal information and may use terminology different from Penn State's. Official Penn State Harrisburg information will be announced as described in the General Guidelines, above.

Most media operators use computer systems with limited memory and often remove critical weather information after a few hours. Please pay careful attention and check different outlets if you have any questions about the weather situation on the Harrisburg campus. Also note that television stations generally post closing information on their web sites as well as television.

Media Outlets Offering Weather Information

  • Television
    • WHP-TV 21
    • WLYH-TV 15
    • WTMP-TV [FOX 43]
    • WHTM-TV 27
    • WGAL-TV 8
  • Radio
    • WHP-AM (580)
    • KISS-FM (99.3)
    • WRBT-FM (94.9)
    • WHYL-AM (960)
    • WQXA-AM (1250)
    • WQXA-FM (105.7)
    • WCAT-FM (106.7)
    • WRKZ-FM (102.3)
    • WNNK-FM (104)
    • WITF-FM (89.5)
    • WLAN-AM (1390)
    • WLAN-FM (96.9)
    • WSBA-AM (910)
    • WARM-FM (103)
    • WRVV-FM (97.3)

Last updated: February 13, 2013